Abstract Art Acrylic Painting Ideas: Tints and Shades for Creating Stunning Abstract Paintings in 7 Steps!

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Hey there, fellow art teachers! Are you ready to embark on an extraordinary painting adventure that will leave your students spellbound and reignite your passion for teaching? Look no further because I’ve got something truly special in store for you. Today, I want to share a super fun painting activity that will have your students feeling accomplished and successful while exploring captivating abstract art acrylic painting ideas. And the best part? It only requires drawing circles while learning valuable skills like value.

In this lesson on one of the abstract art acrylic painting ideas I have for you, your students will become masters of tints and shades as they explore the captivating world of colors. They’ll learn the art of tweaking hues, skillfully incorporating white or complementary colors to create captivating tints, and employing clever color mixing techniques to craft luscious, intricate shades. The end result? Artwork that will make jaws drop, eyes widen, and hearts race with excitement.

But that’s not all! This lesson goes beyond painting skills. It empowers your students to build a strong foundation in composition, balance, and structure. By introducing the concept of an X-grid, you’ll guide them in creating harmonious designs without the hassle of precise measurements. It’s a game-changer that simplifies the process and allows your students’ creativity to soar.

I understand the daily struggles you face as an art teacher, which is why I’ve got your back. I’ve carefully curated a bundle of resources to make your life a whole lot easier. With my easy-to-follow video tutorial, handy downloadable worksheet, and step-by-step guide, you’ll breeze through implementing this lesson into your curriculum, leaving you with more time to nurture your students’ artistic talents.

So, are you ready to embark on this awe-inspiring artistic journey? The wonders of tints and shades await! 

Let’s dive right in. 

Last week, I introduced the concept of value and the color wheel. If you missed that video, no worries, I’ll link it here for you to catch up. Today, we’re going to take that knowledge and create something truly amazing.

Step One: Begin with our composition using circle shapes

abstract art acrylic painting ideas

When it comes to exploring abstract art acrylic painting ideas and creating captivating compositions, the possibilities are endless. In this lesson, we’ll dive into the realm of circle shapes, unraveling the secrets of repetition and variation to infuse movement and visual interest into our artwork. And here’s the best part – you don’t need any prior artistic experience or fancy materials to embark on this adventure!

Now, before we dive right in, let’s lay the groundwork for a successful composition. In case you missed the video, I have an additional resource where I delve deeper into the art of arranging shapes on the page. This informative video provides invaluable insights into creating movement through repetition and variation. To supplement your learning, I’ve also prepared a free handout that offers a step-by-step guide on how to craft exceptional compositions using these principles. ensuring you have all the tools you need to empower your students.

To kickstart our composition, we’ll embrace the beauty of circle shapes.

Draw your cirlces

Using a pencil, lightly sketch various sizes of circles across your canvas. Consider overlapping them, creating interesting variations in size and placement.

Why circles, you may wonder? Well, circles possess unique qualities that make them an excellent choice for art compositions. First and foremost, they are incredibly easy to draw. Unlike complex shapes that require precision and intricate lines, circles are simple, elegant, and achievable for artists of all skill levels as they explore abstract art acrylic painting ideas.

The simplicity of circles makes them an ideal starting point for students who may feel hesitant or lack confidence in their artistic abilities as they delve into abstract art acrylic painting ideas. By introducing circles as a foundational shape, you’re providing a comfortable entry point into the world of art and encouraging your students to embrace their creativity.

But circles offer more than just simplicity for abstract art acrylic painting ideas. They also have the remarkable ability to be repeated and varied. Think of circles as the building blocks of your composition, capable of creating movement, rhythm, and interest. By repeating and varying circle shapes, you introduce visual harmony and balance into your artwork.

Imagine a painting with circles scattered across the canvas. Some circles may be large and bold, commanding attention, while others may be small and delicate, creating a sense of subtlety and nuance. The repetition of circles establishes a visual pattern that guides the viewer’s eye, creating a harmonious flow throughout the composition.

Moreover, varying the size, position, and orientation of circles adds an element of intrigue and dynamism to your artwork. It breaks away from the monotony and creates visual tension, capturing the viewer’s interest and inviting them to explore the piece further.

By embracing circle-based compositions and exploring abstract art acrylic painting ideas, your students will develop essential skills in visual rhythm, balance, and composition. They’ll learn how to manipulate shapes to create movement and interest, adding depth and visual engagement to their artwork.

Step Two: Add the X-Grid

Adding the X-Grid on top of the drawn circles

Don’t worry, there’s no need for complex measurements or mathematical equations here! This simple yet effective grid will work wonders in bringing balance and structure to your painting. 

The X-grid technique involves overlaying a series of intersecting diagonal lines in the shape of an “X” on top of your design. This grid acts as a guiding framework, allowing you to position and arrange your elements with precision and harmony.

To create the X-grid, begin by drawing a diagonal line from the top left corner of your canvas to the bottom right corner. Then, draw another diagonal line from the top right corner to the bottom left corner, intersecting the first line at the center of your canvas. Voila! You’ve created the foundational X-grid.

Now, you might be wondering, why bother with this grid? Well, my dear artists, the X-grid serves multiple purposes. Firstly, it provides a visual aid that helps you establish a balanced composition. By aligning the elements of your design along the intersecting lines, you create a sense of harmony and structure.

Secondly, the X-grid allows you to maintain consistent proportions and spacing between your elements. As you position your circles and shapes, you can refer to the grid lines to ensure they are evenly distributed and avoid any unintentional crowding or imbalances.

The best part about the X-grid technique is its flexibility. Unlike precise measurements, this grid is more about visual approximation and intuition. You have the freedom to adjust the size and spacing of your elements based on your artistic vision, without feeling constrained by rigid guidelines. It’s a powerful tool that empowers you to arrange your elements with confidence and precision, all while maintaining artistic freedom.

Using a ruler for your X-Grid

If you’re looking for a visual demonstration of the X-grid technique, be sure to check out my video tutorial linked here. It will walk you through the process step by step, ensuring you have a clear understanding of how to create balance and structure in your paintings without the need for precise measurements.

Step Three: Fill all the circles with tints and shades of any secondary or tertiary color

Mixing the tints and shades in the paper plate

Now that we have our circle composition ready, it’s time to bring it to life with a burst of color. In this step, we’ll be filling all of our circles with tints and shades of any secondary or tertiary color. 

The reason we focus on secondary and tertiary colors in this lesson is to introduce students to a bit of color theory. It’s not just about creating beautiful artwork; it’s about understanding how colors interact and learning through hands-on exploration. By allowing students to mix their own tints and shades, we empower them to become active participants in their artistic journey.

To begin, let’s mix up a secondary or tertiary color of our choice. For example, I’ll demonstrate by mixing a reddish-orange color. I’ll take a little bit of yellow and combine it with some red. Remember, you can choose any secondary or tertiary color that inspires you. Feel free to experiment and explore different combinations.

Mixing further your colors to achieve a consistent hue

As you mix your color, make sure to blend it thoroughly until you achieve a consistent hue. This is where your color theory knowledge comes into play. If you want to delve deeper into creating tints and shades, I’ve included a free value scale here. It will guide you through the process and help you practice before diving into this step.

Practice precision and control when painting

Now, let’s talk about technique. As you dip your brush into the paint, you’ll notice that it holds a significant amount of pigment. To ensure better control and precision, it’s essential to offload excess paint from the bristles. Simply swipe your brush against the side of the container (or in my demonstration–a paper plate), removing any excess paint. This way, you’ll have more control over the transparency and intensity of your tints and shades.

Once you have your color ready and your brush properly loaded, it’s time to fill in the circles. Begin by carefully painting each circle, paying attention to the desired effect you want to achieve. You may decide to use lighter tints for some circles and deeper shades for others. Let your intuition guide you as you explore different variations within your composition.

Remember, practice makes perfect! It’s important to take the time to experiment and refine your color mixing skills. If you need a refresher on the theory behind creating tints and shades, I’ve got you covered. Check out the video tutorial I’ve provided, where I explain the process in more detail. Understanding the principles will give you a solid foundation for your artistic endeavors.

One crucial tip before you begin: make sure you mix up enough paint for your entire painting. You don’t want to run out of your beautifully mixed color halfway through. Having enough paint ensures consistency and uniformity throughout your artwork.

As you fill in your circles with tints and shades, you’ll witness the transformation of your composition. The colors will dance and interact, adding depth and dimension to your artwork. Embrace the joy of experimenting and trust your instincts. This is your chance to infuse your creation with your unique artistic voice.

Step Four: Creating some tints and shades

Fill the circles with color

Now that we have our circles filled with our chosen warm color, it’s time to dive into the exciting process of creating tints and shades. This exercise is not only about mastering brush control and color mixing but also an excellent opportunity to explore different painting surfaces and materials.

In this particular exercise, we’ll be focusing on two main elements. Inside the circles, we’ll be using our warm color, which we mixed earlier. On the other hand, everything outside the circles will be done in values of another color. This exercise offers a fantastic way to teach students, or even yourself, how to control your brush and experiment with color combinations.

When it comes to the painting surface, I want to emphasize that you have plenty of options to choose from. I personally enjoy working on watercolor paper, which is what I’m using in this demonstration. However, don’t be afraid to try out other surfaces, such as cardboard, foam board, or even gessoed illustration board. It’s all about finding what works best for you and your creative journey.

Color the circles

Now, let’s talk about technique. I’ll be using a flat brush for this step, as it allows for more controlled and precise brushstrokes. As I apply the paint, I prefer to pull the brush downwards toward myself. This technique provides me with a steadier hand and greater control over the brush. Feel free to experiment with different brush directions and find what feels most comfortable for you.

Keep in mind that I didn’t gesso the watercolor paper in this particular exercise. However, if you’re aiming for a longer-lasting finish and want to create a barrier between the paint and the paper, I highly recommend applying a layer of gesso. It will prevent the paint from absorbing too much into the paper and provide a more durable surface. But for this quick exercise, I chose to skip the gesso step.

Balance out the tints and shades in each circle

As I paint, my goal is to balance out the tints and shades within each circle. Remember, the hue you mixed earlier is your main color, and it should be applied to each shape within the circles. Using the flat brush, I carefully fill in each shape, pulling the brush downward in smooth strokes. It’s worth noting that finding the right balance and consistency takes practice, so don’t be discouraged if it feels a bit challenging at first.

For smaller details, use a smaller brush

If you have smaller circles or intricate details to fill, it may be helpful to switch to a smaller brush. However, to encourage my students’ skill-building process and prevent over-reliance on small brushes, I limit their usage to specific situations. It’s essential to strike a balance between challenging ourselves and building confidence as artists.

This exercise serves as a wonderful introduction to painting, making it perfect for beginners. It encompasses fundamental aspects of composition and color theory while also focusing on skill development, including brush control. It’s a straightforward yet effective way to enhance your understanding of how to handle paint and create harmonious compositions.

Step Five: Start making tints

Start mixing tints

We’re making great progress with our painting exercise. Now, let’s dive into the exciting world of creating tints. Tints are lighter versions of a color, achieved by adding white to our main hue. Get ready to infuse your composition with subtle variations and depth!

Mix tints further

To begin, I’ll pull a little bit of paint over to a separate area on my palette. This reserved portion will be used for creating shades later on, so it’s important to keep them separate. Now, let’s focus on making tints. I’ll take a small amount of white paint and add it to my main hue. However, I always test the mixture first to ensure I don’t overdo it. It’s better to start with a smaller amount of white and gradually add more if needed.

When mixing the paint, it’s crucial to thoroughly blend the colors on your palette. We want to avoid any streaks or unevenness in the paint. Mixing it well ensures a consistent and smooth tint for our artwork. You might notice that I often clean off the excess paint that accumulates at the tip or throw of the brush. Don’t let it go to waste—use it to your advantage!

Aim to create contrast in your values

As you begin painting, aim to create contrast in your values. It’s visually appealing to have a play between light and dark tones. Since our values may be quite similar, I like to space them out a bit within the circles. You might notice in the video that I occasionally rotate the paper to achieve better reach and control. These small adjustments can make a significant difference in your painting process.

Feel free to experiment and play around with the placement of your tints. Be mindful of the contrast and distribution of light and dark values within your composition.

Remember, this exercise is not only about filling in the circles but also about building your artistic intuition and exploring the possibilities within each shape. As you progress, embrace the freedom to express your own unique style and interpretation. Let your creativity flow and enjoy the journey of discovery.

Step Six: Start creating shades

We’ve reached an exciting stage of our painting journey—it’s time to create shades. Shades are darker versions of a color and add depth and dimension to our artwork. Get ready to explore the world of shadows and contrast!

Start creating shades

To ensure clean and vibrant shades, I always encourage my students to use a separate palette for this step. Mixing shades with the same palette as tints can result in muddy colors, and we definitely want to avoid that. So, let’s grab a fresh palette and prepare to deepen our hues.

To darken our main hue, I won’t be using black paint. Adding black can easily lead to muddy shades. Instead, I’ll show you a simple technique using complementary colors. Complementary colors are those positioned opposite each other on the color wheel. For example, the complement of yellow is violet. By adding a touch of violet to our yellow hue, we can achieve beautiful shades without losing vibrancy.

Refer to the color wheel

Now, let’s dive into the process. As I’m currently working with a red-orange color, I’ll need to find its complement. In this case, the opposite of red-orange is blue-green. To create my shade, I’ll take a small amount of blue and mix it with some yellow, creating a lovely dark blue-green color.

To maintain the purity of our shades, I’ll switch to a new brush. This prevents any residual tint from mixing with the shades. If you prefer, you can also rinse the brush, but since we’re aiming for a smooth workflow, I’ll simply grab another brush.

Exercise caution not to overdo it

Just like we did with the tints, we want to exercise caution and not overdo it with the shades. I’ll take a small amount of the dark blue-green shade and mix it with the red-orange on my palette. Wow! Look at that gorgeous shade we’ve created. Notice that the paint may have accumulated and become thick at the tip of the brush. To remedy this, I gently pull the paint towards the middle of the brush, smoothing it out for a consistent application.

Continue painting

As we continue painting, you might encounter some challenging corners or edges. Don’t worry; we can easily navigate them. In the case of a rounded corner, spinning the paper slightly while pulling the brush towards you can help achieve better control and coverage. When it comes to creating straight lines or defining edges, a similar technique can be applied. Start with a straight line and then gently pull the paint towards the middle, smoothing it out for a seamless transition.

Feel free to experiment and create a range of shades to add depth and richness to your composition. In the video, I demonstrate two additional shades, but feel free to explore even further!

Step Seven: Paint the background

This step is where we bring everything together and create unity within our painting. Let’s dive right in!

Painting the background

For the background, I’ll be using the same blue and green colors that we used to create the shades in our circles. This choice of using the same colors helps establish a sense of harmony and cohesiveness in our artwork. By using consistent colors throughout the painting, we create a visual connection that ties everything together.

What I love about this lesson is that it allows us to teach various skills and theories in a single project, without the pressure of achieving realism. It’s an opportunity for students to explore color theory and learn how to harmonize a painting by using a limited palette. In this case, we are using only one, two, or three colors along with white to create a wide range of tints and tones.

Ensure even coverage and smooth transitions between colors

To paint the background, I’ll begin by selecting a brush suitable for covering larger areas. You can use a flat brush or a round brush—whichever you feel comfortable with. I’ll load my brush with a mixture of the blue and green colors, creating a lovely blend that complements the hues in our circles.

Now, let’s apply the paint to the background. With broad and confident strokes, I’ll cover the areas surrounding the circles. The purpose of the background is to provide a balanced and visually pleasing setting for our composition. As we apply the paint, we want to ensure even coverage and smooth transitions between the colors.

Remember, this step is all about creating unity and a sense of coherence. By using the same colors in the background as we did in the circles, we establish a strong visual relationship between the elements of our artwork.

Make consistent application of the background

Take your time as you paint the background, paying attention to the edges and corners. It’s essential to maintain a consistent application and blend the colors seamlessly. If needed, you can adjust the intensity of the background by adding more or less paint, depending on the desired effect.

As you progress through this step, reflect on the color theory and the harmonious palette you’ve developed. This project allows us to focus on these principles and observe how different tints and tones interact within a composition. It’s a fantastic opportunity for artistic exploration and creative expression.

Believe me when I say, this lesson is a game-changer. It’s a simple yet effective way to engage your students, inspire their creativity, and teach valuable art skills. So, let’s create a calm and engaging classroom environment together. Get those circles and shapes rolling, mix up those tints and shades, and watch your students flourish. Happy painting!

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